Social Links Search




Cicada damage - browning branches on MO trees

Cicada damage - browning branches on MO trees

By Blake Jackson

The recent chorus of cicadas in Missouri may be over, but their impact is becoming evident. University of Missouri Extension offices are fielding calls from homeowners concerned about browning and dropping tree branches.

"Cicada damage inquiries have surged in the past few days," says Hank Stelzer, MU Extension's forestry specialist.

Unlike their annual cousins, these periodical cicadas spent 13 years underground before emerging, mating, and laying eggs in small slits on new twig growth.

"Females can lay up to 600 eggs per cycle," explains Tamra Reall, MU Extension horticulture specialist. After hatching, the young cicadas burrow into the ground for another 13 years, feeding on tree roots.

A variety of trees are susceptible, including apple, hickory, maple, oak, birch, willow, linden, and elm. Shrubs like blueberry, rose, lilac, and forsythia can also be affected. Notably, conifers are rarely bothered due to needle interference and sticky sap.

The damage stems from the egg-laying process. Heavily impacted twigs may droop, blocking water and nutrients to leaves beyond the affected area, causing them to turn yellow or brown (flagging).

While some injured branches might hold on for now, the weakened areas could snap during storms or heavy snowfall. Experts anticipate reports of such damage throughout 2024 and even into 2025.

In some cases, the wounds might not heal properly, creating entry points for diseases that could harm the overall tree health. However, healthy, mature trees can generally withstand cicada damage and experience a form of natural pruning.

For larger trees, pruning visible damage is unnecessary as dead twigs will fall naturally. However, consulting a certified arborist is recommended for smaller, recently planted trees showing signs of cicada damage.

Despite the initial concerns, decomposing cicadas offer some benefits:

  • Their bodies decompose quickly, providing natural fertilizer for plants.
  • They become a food source for wildlife, particularly birds raising young.
  • Their emergence aerates the soil.
  • The natural pruning of outer branches can encourage lateral growth and potentially more flowers and fruit in the future.

Photo Credit: istock-bee-photobee

From farm to table - marketing matters for MO beef From farm to table - marketing matters for MO beef
Join us for the 2nd annual sheep and goats field day Join us for the 2nd annual sheep and goats field day

Categories: Missouri, General

Subscribe to newsletters

Crop News

Rural Lifestyle News

Livestock News

General News

Government & Policy News

National News

Back To Top